Iran: The last executioner of children

January 1, 2011

Iran: The last executioner of children

While this seems to be a very positive aspect of the law, it is not clear if it covers both qesas and hodoud cases. As shown above, the Iranian judicial authorities appear to distinguish between the death sentence (hokm-e ‘edam) and the judicially sanctioned retaliatory killing of a convicted murderer (qesas), and therefore consider murder to be punishable by retribution, not a death sentence handed down by a court.

The distinction was made explicit on 11 October 2005 by the late Minister of Justice, Jamal Karimirad, acting in his capacity as spokesperson for the Iranian Judiciary, when he told the Iranian Students’ News Agency that if this law was passed by the Majles, those under the age of 18 would no longer be executed (hokm-e ‘edam). However, he made a distinction between qesas and other crimes carrying the death penalty, stating that qesas was a private not a state matter, and as such would not be covered by the draft law, although he did say that attempts were being made to address the issue of qesas as well.

It is unacceptable for the Iranian authorities to separate cases of murder from other crimes carrying the death penalty. Legislation is urgently required, whether in the form of the draft law, appropriately amended, or in some other form, to ensure that no one in Iran is sentenced to death for any crime, including murder, committed when they were under the age of 18.
The judicial process
In Iran, most criminal cases come before General (sometimes referred to as Public) Courts (Dadgah-e ‘Omomi). Cases relating to national security – which included espionage, insulting or defaming the founders of the Islamic Republic and the Supreme Leader, drug smuggling and profiteering – come before Revolutionary Courts21 (Dadgah-e Enghelabi). These were established following the Islamic Revolution in 1979 as a temporary measure, but later enshrined in law. Both courts are governed by the Code of Criminal Procedures for General and Revolutionary Courts.22

Under the Law on Appeals23 and the Code of Criminal Procedures24 all death sentences, whether in hodoud, ta’zir or qesas cases, are subject to appeal, which must be lodged within 20 days of the verdict. If the sentence is confirmed on appeal, the case is sent to the Supreme Court for consideration. If a fault is found with the conviction or sentence by the appeal court or the Supreme Court, the case is usually sent back to a lower court for retrial.

If the Supreme Court confirms the death sentence, the defendant can lodge an objection, and another branch of the Supreme Court, sitting as the discernment or review body (sho’be-ye tashkhis), will review the case. Otherwise, the verdict is sent to the Head of the Judiciary, who reviews the case before sending it to the judge responsible for implementing verdicts. The Head of the Judiciary has the power to issue a stay of execution.

In qesas cases, once the verdict has been approved by the Supreme Court, it is sent to the Council for the Reconciliation of Differences (Shura-ye hall-e ekhtelaf). The Council tries to mediate between the defendant and the victim’s family to enable the payment of diyeh. For diyeh to be paid, all the blood relatives of the victim must forego their right to demand the killer’s death, and to accept the diyeh, which the killer (often with the help of his family) must be able to pay. Iranian officials have stated that strenuous efforts are made to win the agreement of blood relatives to accept diyeh, particularly in cases of child offenders.25